regular-article-logo Saturday, 23 September 2023

12-hour tribal strike lead to government offices, banks and shops being shut, road blockades

Roads blocked during bandh against Kurmi demand for ST tag

Our Bureau Siliguri Published 09.06.23, 06:30 AM
Strike supporters ask a garment store owner to shut the shop in Raiganj on Thursday

Strike supporters ask a garment store owner to shut the shop in Raiganj on Thursday Picture by Kousik Sen

Road blockades were raised and government offices, banks and shops remained shut at various places during a 12-hour strike called by an apex body of tribal organisations in Bengal on Thursday in protest against the Kurmi community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.

“Attempts are being made to declare the Kurmi community as a Scheduled Tribe.The community is exerting pressure on the state government. We vehemently oppose it and if required, we will intensify our movement,” said Rajendranath Murmu, a senior leader of the United Forum of All Adivasi Organisations that had called for the strike.


For the past few months, the Kurmi community has been organising a movement for the ST status. They also want the inclusion of their language — Kurmali — in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian constitution and the recognition of “Sarna” as a religious code.

However, a number of tribal communities are against the demand and apprehend that it can lead to a breach of law and order in Adivasi-dominated regions, including the Jungle Mahal.

In North Dinajpur and South Dinajpur districts, private buses remained off the roads. Bandh supporters raised blockades at Hili More and Thana More of Balurghat town. A blockade was raised on NH12 at Siliguri More in Raiganj.

In Malda district, NH12 and NH512 were blocked by strike supporters at Gazole. The blockades continued for hours at most places and affected traffic.

In Balurghat and Raiganj, most shops and marketplaces were closed throughout the day. Bandh supporters entered shopping complexes and closed down some stores which had opened.

In Raiganj, Adivasis reached some banks and post offices and demanded their closure. In one bank, they had an altercation with the employees. Police arrived and brought the situation under control.

“We understand the inconveniences faced by ordinary people but we have a genuine concern. If Kurmis are accorded the ST status, it will affect the interests of the tribal community,” said Napoleon Hembram, a leader of the forum.

Road blockades were also raised at Hemtabad, Itahar and Kaliaganj in North Dinajpur district. Police were deployed to prevent breach of peace.

In South Dinajpur, road blockades were raised at Harirampur, Kushmandi and Patiram.

Although the strike remained peaceful in most areas in the district, bandh supporters allegedly assaulted a person who was riding a motorcycle at Gangarampur.

Sources said the picketers stopped and beat up Gouranga Rajbanshi, who was going to a medicine shop. A police team reached the spot and took him to the local hospital for treatment.

“We have filed two cases in connection with certain incidents during the bandh. Appropriate action will be taken against those who were involved in untoward incidents,” said Rahul De, the superintendent of police, South Dinajpur.

In Nadia, around 500 tribal people blocked NH12 at Kalyani town link road intersection for two hours. Protests and blockades were also reported from Bankura, Purulia and Jhargram districts.

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